Nikon Coolpix P7700 verdict
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 has a lot to offer for those looking for a fixed lens compact that fits somewhere between a small sensor compact and a DSLR. With the advent of large sensor compacts like the Canon PowerShot G1X and Sony RX100, added to the continuing popularity of mirror-less compact system cameras, you might be tempted to think that that the Coolpix P7700 occupied a shrinking niche. Whether or not that's true, there's still plenty of enthusiasm and demand for these models, but it's becoming increasingly important for manufacturers to get the right mix of features.
With the P7700 Nikon has got it bang on in some key areas. First, the P7700's bright lens keeps it in play with competition that's really pushing the boundaries. F2 to f4 may not be the brightest of the pack but, crucially, the P7700's long 28 to 200mm equivalent range is a big compensation.
Next, there's control and customisation, two factors that score highly among enthusiast photographers looking for a compact backup to occassionally substitute for a DSLR. The P7700 has both in spade loads. And its ergonomics work, allowing you to make the most of the physical controls, a feature that will appeal to improvers as well as enthusiasts.
Really excellent image quality, good stabilisation, SLR-style auto bracketing options and an articulated 3 inch LCD screen further enhance a very capable compact. Add to that a standard hotshoe, external mic socket and the ability to add a GPS dongle and it looks like a winner. It's not all good news though. While it's great to be able to add GPS features, it would be even greater to have them, and WiFi, built-in. And the decision to drop the P7100's viewfinder, rather than improve it is something of a disappointment. The P7700 is larger and heavier than other cameras in its class, has shallow continuous shooting performance and is slow to write RAW files to the memory card. But if you think that's nit picking, then the Coolpix P7700 could be the enthusiast compact you've been waiting for.
Compared to Canon PowerShot G15
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 makes for an interesting comparison with the Powershot G15 for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, if you cried into your breakfast cereal when you discovered Canon had dropped the flip out screen on the G15, you'll be delighted to discover the P7700's 3in 921k dot screen is fully articulated. This of course makes the P7700 bigger and heavier.
One advantage of a bigger body, though, is you can fit more controls on it and wheres the G15 has lost its dedicated ISO dial, the P7700 has a multi-function dial that can be used for, among other things, ISO sensitivity, white balance, quality settings and bracketing. Plus the P7700 has versatile auto bracketing that beats what many DSLR's have to offer. It also has two programmable function buttons and three user positions on the mode dial compared with two on the G15. Additionally the P7700 has both front and rear control dials in addition to the rear control wheel, providing one more than the G15.
Both cameras have the same physical sized 1/1.7in CMOS sensor and both share the same 12 Megapixel resolution. But in my testing the Nikon Coolpix P7700 beat the Canon PowerShot G15 in both the outdoor real life resolution and high ISO nose tests. The Coolpix P7700 also outreaches the PowerShot G15 with a 7.1x zoom compared with 5x on the Canon. Both start at a 28mm wide angle, but the G15 stops at 140mm equivalent where the P7700 keeps on going to 200mm. The other important factor when it comes to the lens, though, is the maximum aperture; the G15 has a brighter f1.8-2.8 aperture than the f2-4 lens on the P7700.
Both models have standard hotshoes and built-in pop-up flash units, but the P7700 lacks any kind of viewfinder where the G15 has an optical viewfinder built-in. Finally, both of these cameras are fairly evenly matched in terms of their video capabilities. They're also closely matched on price, though you'll find there are regional variations. To sum up, the Coolpix P7700 is bigger and heavier, has more physical controls with greater customisation options, a longer, less bright zoom lens and a flip-out screen, but it lacks the G15's optical viewfinder. With the two of them priced almost identically, it really does come down to which of those two approches best suits your style of photography.
Check out my Canon G15 review for more details.
Nikon Coolpix P7700 final verdict
As the market for advanced cameras fragments and compact cameras with slightly larger sensors and fixed zooms become just one choice among many for enthusiasts and improvers, it's increasingly important for manufacturers to understand what their customers want and to provide it. It's interesting to note where Canon, with the PowerShot G15 and Nikon with the Coolpix P7700 take the same or differening views on this. Both upgraded the sensor from a 10 Megapixel CCD to a 12 Megapixel CMOS and provided 1080p HD video along with a brighter lens. Where they differ is on the composition, Canon still offers a basic optical glass window in addition to the screen (albeit now fixed in position), while Nikon has dropped the viewfinder in favour of an articulated screen.
Arguably, a better option for both would have been to include an electronic viewfinder, but until that happens the choice is at least an easy one for those who have strong views about the necessity for a viewfinder - of any kind. Comparisons aside, the Coolpix P7700 is a compact camera that has 'enthusiast' written all over it. Nikon has got the fundamentals right and there are many nice touches, from the versatile auto bracketing to the indicator on the exposure compensation dial. Were it not for the lack of a viewfinder, slow buffer writing and poorly designed menu system it might have been Highly recommended. As it is, it's a worthy recipient of a Camerlabs Recommended award.
Bright f2 - f4 28-200mm zoom.
1080p30 video, plus slow and fast modes.
Wide range of physical controls.
High degree of customisation.
Versatile auto bracketing.
Excellent image quality.
Poor continuous shooting performance.
Slow buffer write times.
Poor menu design.
No built-in Wifi or GPS.
(relative to 2012 advanced compacts)
17 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20